Everyone deals with hard times but it’s about how we make it through them that says so much about who we are. With the right support, people can discover things they didn’t know about themselves. New passions, new joys, new aspects to their lives.

Sarah, 52, a person we support who has down's syndrome, grew up in her family home with her mother and siblings. Her mother was her main carer but unfortunately suffered from dementia and had to move into residential care. Following this, Sarah wanted to live completely independently. However, unfortunately, after a while, Sarah’s mental health deteriorated and she was admitted to hospital in October 2013.

After leaving hospital, Sarah moved back to her family home in Cimla, Neath and in March 2014 started receiving support from us. Walsingham Support helped Sarah around medication but also in enabling her to access her local community, complete daily tasks around the house and generally lift her spirits. The can-do attitude of our staff empowered her to stay living within her family home and in the area she grew up.

Sarah has previously lacked in motivation due to ill health. However, after a substantial weight loss at the beginning of this year, she is feeling “superb”. Sarah's family and staff have worked together to draw up a meal planner from a local Meals on Wheels service. These meals are all calorie-controlled and give good guidance and direction around portion control. Now Sarah chooses healthy options when out shopping. Sarah has learned from using the meals how to portion control and has continued to enjoy losing weight gradually. Sarah's family has set her a target weight and she is hoping to achieve this by next summer – if the weight is reached her wonderful sisters will be taking her away on a cruise for all her hard work! Sarah now lives a much more active lifestyle and is currently “the happiest she has ever been”, enjoying herself socially and interacting with staff members.

“My Maa would be so proud,” she says.

At Walsingham Support, we get to know the people we support really well, designing practical innovations that enable personal choices, improve life skills and strengthen links with family and the wider community. A change of Manager in Sarah’s service meant that Sarah spent time discussing her likes, interests and goals in the process of getting to know her new Manager. It quickly became clear that the garden was a very special place for Sarah. It was something her mother loved who would keep it very colourful when Sarah was growing up. Now Sarah is determined to do the same.

Sarah tends to her plants and flowers daily and has been getting a lot of help from our unpredictable British weather recently. Sarah has found a new passion that gives her responsibility, allows her to bring the wonderful memory of her mother into the present, and with that responsibility comes a step towards her ultimate aim: greater independence.

Sarah set herself a goal in April: not just to care for flowers but to create the perfect setting for a summer BBQ with her family. She left no stone unturned, visiting multiple garden centres with her support workers to pick out the perfect selection that allowed her creativity to flourish. She knew it would take a lot of preparation, maintenance and commitment, but also that it would ultimately all be worth it. When the flowers bloom and the garden can be enjoyed by the people she loves.

To us, it’s not just support, it’s happiness. Is there a better phrase to sum up her smile?!

How does planting in the garden make you feel?

It makes me feel happy and it is very relaxing. I enjoy going out in the garden, getting stuck in and then I feel proud when I sit back and look at what I have achieved for the day. My sisters are all really pleased with how it is looking too.

You seem very happy in the photo! Is this a new hobby/passion?

Yes! I really do enjoy going into the garden with the girls that support me as they encourage me to do my best and give me advice and tips on the garden. My Maa spent a lot of time in the garden and would come inside and flake out on the sofa...now that’s what I do!

Have you got any further plans as far as gardening goes? You seem to have a talent for it!

I have experience from when I went to college a few years back and all the great advice from my Maa, but at my own pace and in my own home it makes everything that little bit better as I can sit and look at the plants and enjoy how colourful the garden is whenever I want.